Capitol Chophouse tops #restaurantweek meals

Capitol Chophouse
Capitol Chophouse

I’ve been trying restaurants during Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Weeks for four years, but my last stop during this summer’s Restaurant Week was by far the best meal I’ve gotten off of a Restaurant Week menu so far. Capitol Chophouse is a slightly hidden restaurant that is attached to the Hilton Hotel right off the square near Monona Terrace. The dining room features big leather booths and dark wood walls, with clean white linens and classic dishes. It feels like a high-class supper club, even though it’s attached to a hotel.

Market tomato salad
Market tomato salad
Smoked salmon fritters
Smoked salmon fritters
French onion gratin
French onion gratin

For restaurant week the appetizer choices were a market tomato salad, smoked salmon fritters and French onion gratin. My friends got the smoked salmon fritters and the market tomato salad. Both were happy with their choices. I got the French onion gratin. I’m not sure what I was expecting when the menu said the appetizer was a “gratin” but it was basically baked French onion soup. Admittedly, it was the best French onion soup I’ve ever had. The onions and the broth were so flavorful with the perfect balance of onion flavor and savory broth. The chunks of bread inside the soup were not too mushy, which means it was probably made-to-order. And the swiss cheese melted on top was thick, creamy and didn’t have too much of a strong swiss flavor. It was a perfect first course for my final summer 2014 Restaurant Week meal.

Alaskan halibut
Alaskan halibut
Roast Berkshire pork
Roast Berkshire pork
New York strip steak
New York strip steak

For entrees they were offering a New York strip steak, roast Berkshire pork and Alaskan halibut. The two extremely generous slices of roast pork came on top of coffee mole sauce that tasted odd on its own, but paired very well with the perfectly cooked pork. The two equally generous pieces of halibut came in a white wine butter sauce with capers on top. The fish was also cooked perfectly, and the sauce was pleasantly light despite its name. Since we were in a chophouse I opted for the New York strip steak. Unlike my previous steakhouse experience that week, the people running Capitol Chophouse’s kitchen definitely knew how to cook a medium rare steak. The chimichurri vinaigrette that was drizzled on top added a good tang. The amount of the sauce was perfect. There was just enough to taste it, but I was still able to taste the perfectly charred and seasoned steak.

Capitol Chophouse mashed potatoes
Capitol Chophouse mashed potatoes

In addition to this being the best Restaurant Week meal I’ve ever had, it was also the most expensive. Because the menu at Capitol Chophouse is served a la carte, we had to order our sides separately. With some guidance from one of the servers, we ordered two sides to split between the three of us. I’m glad we decided to split the sides because what was delivered can only be described as a serving bowl of family-style sides…definitely not an individual serving. I was also excited to try more than one side. The mashed potatoes were just the way I like them – made with red potatoes with the skins, a little garlicky and a little lumpy. For our second side we got the lobster mac and cheese (forgot to take a picture…sad), which was super decadent. It is al dente elbow macaroni smothered in a rich cheese sauce with chunks of lobster sprinkled generously throughout. I could have made a meal out of just the sides, but I’m glad I didn’t!

Chocolate terrine
Chocolate terrine
Peach cobbler
Peach cobbler

For desserts we could choose between a chocolate terrine, a Wisconsin cheese plate or peach cobbler. One of my friends got the chocolate terrine, which was this thick chocolate fudge-like substance topped with another white custardy substance. Both were extremely good. There were also little fluffs of toasted meringue on the side. Two of us got the peach cobbler. The cobbler had to have been baked to order, because it was so hot, when we broke into the crust steam started pouring out. The vanilla bean ice cream was melting so fast mine started dripping dow the side of my ramekin. I’m not the biggest fan of peach, but this dessert made me forget that. The peaches were in a light sauce that wasn’t too sweet or syrupy, and the crumbles on top were crunchy and tasted vanilla-y and hardy. The combination of the hot cobbler with the vanilla bean ice cream was a home run.

FOOD NOTES: There were so many high points to this meal, I’m not really sure where to even start. The atmosphere was great. The service was good, but not overbearing. My appetizer, entree, sides and dessert were phenomenal. I was extremely happy with everything, and I wasn’t even upset with the price of the meal, because I did take leftovers home. I’m more of a savory person over sweets, but to this day I think about that peach cobbler and ice cream dessert.

#restaurantweek 2014 ends at disappointing steakhouse

Restaurant week is always a great opportunity to eat some good food for a reasonable price. This year’s winter restaurant week was not disappointing as a whole, but it ended with a slightly disappointing meal. I had zero complaints about my first three restaurant week meals, but the last and most expensive one ruined the perfect streak that was Winter Restaurant Week 2014. I went to Johnny Delmonico’s with two friends and was pretty excited because I’ve heard it’s a very good steakhouse, but my experience was a little less than exciting.

Johnny Delmonico's New England clam chowder
Johnny Delmonico’s New England clam chowder

The restaurant week menu appetizers Johnny Delmonico’s offered included a house Caesar salad, fried calamari and New England clam chowder. I always get Caesar salads so I opted to try something new. I didn’t think I’d be a fan of fried calamari, and I’ve never tried New England clam chowder so I got that. The chowder was a great decision! It was creamy, savory and perfectly salty. The bacon and potatoes were a great compliment to the slightly fishy flavor of the clams. I absolutely loved it!

Johnny Delmonico's fried calamari
Johnny Delmonico’s fried calamari

Both of the friends I went with got the fried calamari. They mostly enjoyed the appetizer, but one of them (including me) was a little freaked out by the pieces with tentacles! The spicy chili sauce that came with the fried calamari was pretty good and the batter wasn’t too heavy. I’m not a fan of calamari, but if you like it you’d probably like their version.

Johnny Delmonico's calamari
Johnny Delmonico’s calamari

For entrees they offered a NY strip steak, swordfish and gnocchi. Because Johnny Delmonico’s is a steakhouse I had to get the NY strip. The steak was pepper crusted and came with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strips and a gorgonzola bechamel sauce. The steak was perfectly cooked, the potatoes were flavorful, the onions added a good crispiness to the dish, and the sauce was rich and creamy. The dish as a whole was good, but I was pretty disappointed in the portion. For being a steakhouse with a pretty hefty price tag even during restaurant week, I was expecting a bigger portion, especially of the steak itself.

Johnny Delmonico's creme brulee
Johnny Delmonico’s creme brulee

For dessert they offered creme brulee, fruit sorbet and German chocolate cake. I never think fruit sorbet is worth being a dessert on its own and German chocolate cake has coconut in it. So I got creme brulee, which I am usually a really big fan. The creme brulee was the biggest disappointment of the meal. The custard itself was fine, but it wasn’t caramelized enough on the top and was way way way too small. The teeny tiny ramekin was about 1/4 the size it should have been.

Johnny Delmonico's German chocolate cake
Johnny Delmonico’s German chocolate cake

One of my friends got the German chocolate cake, which was a much larger portion than the creme brulee…damn the coconut!

FOOD NOTES: The atmosphere of Johnny Delmonico’s is classy with an upscale twist on a traditional steakhouse. The prices (regular and restaurant week) are way too high for the portion sizes. The quality of the food is great, but the quantity really ruined my experience. When I go to a steakhouse I expect classic flavors and big portions…half of that was missing at Johnny Delmonico’s. All in all…definitely not my favorite Food Fight restaurant.